Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘hormones’

Words of Love

I am working on a project for AltD2’s birthday which is coming up at the start of September.  I suppose this kind of follows on from the creativity post, although you’ll have to wait and see what it actually is.  What I want to share today has more to do with the content.


When I was younger, there was a cheesy and (usually depressing) segment on Radio 1 called “Our Tune”.  Simon Bates would read out listeners’ letters in a Serious Voice.  Soothing music would play in the background.  Invariably the couple had split up, the dog had died or some other tragedy had befallen the writer.  The feature would culminate with a sentimental, meaningful song. [Hey, wow, I just googled and discovered it is still on!]

You have probably figured out by now that I am hinting that I have a special song, an “Our Tune” I suppose (but without Simon Bates and a long-lost goldfish), for each of the Alt Daughters.  Not sure I have one for AltFather, unless you count the first dance at our wedding, which, incidentally, was Dido’s “Thank You“, and not the Eminem Stan version, you may be pleased to hear! 


So I thought I would share these songs, and how they came to be.


When AltD1 was born, we spent a few nights in the hospital, getting to know each other, working out what was what, struggling a bit with feeding, and starting our life together.  She was being fed expressed milk alternating with formula from a bottle.

‘They’ said to me:
“Someone else should give her the bottle, not you, so she doesn’t get confused.” 
My role seemed to be to hitch myself up like Daisy the cow to a turbo powered pump, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was holding a very loud small pink thing while AltFather prepared the next bottle.  In between, I would have a go at feeding her myself, although it wasn’t working very well.  She got frustrated and I got sore.  She yelled every time I picked her up.  Once, when she was sleeping, I lay on my bed and looked at her in her plastic tank on wheels next to me, and thought:
“I’m not really allowed to touch you, am I?”

It was then that a few lines from a song popped into my head:

“All I do is miss you, and the way we used to be… all I do is keep the beat and bad company… all I do is kiss you, through the bars of a rhyme…”

I was only “allowed” to touch my baby with something in between us, I felt.  The bars of a rhyme?  The plastic bottle, the swaddled flailing arms… handing her over when she got too worked up… it made me sob.  No prizes for the first to guess that this song (which betrays my soft rock roots!) is “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits.
There are two other lines in that song that I couldn’t get out of my head:

“I love you like the stars above and I’ll love you till I die” (oh my goodness, isn’t that just the truth?), and
“you exploded into my heart”  I just felt that every time I looked at her, my heart got bigger and bigger!

We came home from hospital eventually, and we got the hang of the feeding and the holding and bonding.  I put Dire Straits on the CD player and played it loud (not too loud I promise) as I rocked and bounced my lovely baby.  Sometimes I played it when I was just so happy to look at her and know she was mine, sometimes I played it when the hormones were raging and tears streamed down my face as I sniffed my way through the words.  It really became a song for me and her.

One day, AltFather came home from work to find us rocking out to the guitar solo (ok, me rocking out, AltD1 staring at me from her bouncy chair).  When he stopped laughing at my air guitar he hammered the air drums alongside me, crazy fools that we are, entertaining our perplexed three month old.  He told me that on the day we were married, as he walked to the church, that song was drifting down to the street from an upstairs window in one of the houses he passed… definitely a song for our new little family.

Nearly three years later, AltD2 arrived.  I had been worried before she was born that I wouldn’t be able to love her as much as I adored AltD1.  It couldn’t be possible, surely?  Then she stormed into my life and I was bowled over.  But not immediately.  It probably took me until she was 8 weeks old or so to make that unbreakable connection.  During that time there was a song I kept hearing on the radio.  All through my pregnancy it had been rising in the music charts and getting a lot of airtime. 

It’s a Bob Dylan song, but now made famous (and sounding so much nicer in my opinion!) by Adele.  “To Make you Feel My Love”.

The lyrics are presumably meant for a lover, but they are so pertinent and poignant for a new mother, even second time around.
“I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
No there is nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love”  
Once again – isn’t that just the truth?  My hormone-laden self certainly thought so.  I’ve played it to AltD2, whispered the words to her in the deep dark night, and really, honestly, meant every word of it.
I would love to hear if you have special songs for your babies, or any special family members… please do leave me a comment and share the story.  You’ll have to wait until September to see the finished (I hope!) birthday project, but I hope it’s going to turn out really special.

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The Tribe

The Alt.Family were fortunate this week to spend some time with our good friends at their farm community in beautiful Herefordshire.  Alt.Father was enthusiastically wheeling compost in the vegetable gardens, while Alt.D1 and her friend ran around in the sunshine kicking footballs, riding bikes, picking up stones and generally getting grubby.  Alt.D2 worked on her sitting-up skills, and for me it was a chance to catch up with a good friend who I don’t see nearly often enough.
I have heard it said that the friends you make while you are breastfeeding are often some of the closest.  This is apparently because of all the oxytocin and other love hormones going on in your body.  While these are supposed to be primarily for the benefit of your relationship with your baby, there are side-effects which reach out and intensify the other relationships you are forming at the time.  
When Alt.D1 was born, I began to appreciate how far away geographically Alt.Father and I actually are from our extended family.  Grandparents and great-grandparents are upwards of 2 hours travel, and the nearest siblings about the same distance away.  Our children would be growing up without Aunties and Uncles and cousins in the next street, or even the next county.  Although we have email and phone and skype, we would have to find our own way through the parenting minefield without the constant presence of the former generations of our family.  I can see how those distances might not seem far to some, but to us, it was and still is, far enough to make a difference.
As a mother, I found myself on the circuit of mum and baby groups, classes, coffee mornings and get-togethers.  Throughout my year long maternity leave, I was drawn to people with similar ideas about parenting, and from them I started to learn more about myself.  Although we were getting on with the parenting part of life, other things were taking a back burner.  Jobs around the house and garden that were impossible to tackle with a baby on your hip were filed under “A” for Another Time.  Alt.Father suggested that what was needed was something like an old style community, a tribe, where the mothers would get together to carry out the daily tasks while the big kids watched the little kids and everyone helped each other out… he might have been being a tad idealistic, but was he wrong?
In the rose-tinted past, before we created methods of communication that made it easier to be further apart from each other, families stayed local.  Sons and daughters learned from their parents and other elders in the community, and were often able to rely on friends and neighbours for support.  Do you know the names of your next-door neighbours?  How about the people either side of them?  Or the ones that live opposite?  I know my immediate neighbours, but not many more than those, and I am slightly ashamed to admit that. 
If you look to developing nations where tribal living is still commonplace, you can see the benefits.  You don’t hear of problems with breastfeeding.  Support and encouragement for that, as well as all the other aspects of being new parents (both mother and father of course – this is about so much more than just mothering, and not all about breastfeeding) is readily available.  I’m not saying it’s all great, but there must be a reason that our ancestors chose to live in tribes.
These days we are in a fortunate position that we are able to choose our own tribe.  Our neighbours might not be our first choice, but some of the mothers I have met in the first four years of my parenthood have somehow come together to make a new kind of community.  

A while ago I read an article by Teresa Pitman entitled “Finding Your Tribe”.  The author echoed Alt.Father’s words about old fashioned communities.  I got together with a group of local mothers, to talk about parenting, to carry out tasks and to offer each other some support.  A little tribe was forming, and it is in no small way thanks to those women that I made it through some of the difficult challenges I faced as a first time mother.
I have been thinking about the ways we reach out for new tribes in our modern daily life.  Whether it is through neighbours, toddler groups, or internet forums, mothers at least are drawn to each other.  Teresa Pitman says:

“We truly are social animals; we need to be with other people to feel good, whole, and happy. It’s worth the effort to create tribes, however small and imperfect they may be.”
Sadly, most of the families in the little tribe that Alt.D1 and I belonged to have moved on in one way or another.  But sitting with our babies on the grass in the sunshine in Herefordshire this week, as my friend worked on a decorating project, I was reminded of how it had felt in those days.  Our first-born babies were tiny little things, and it had been their arrival that had caused us to seek out likeminded people for support.

My friend and her family are now part of a bigger tribe in their farm community, emphasising to me the need of human beings to be part of something.  
No man is an island, and nor is any family.

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